The market for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles may be just about to get the kick-start it needs, as a coalition of U.S. states gets ready to buy up to 10,000 CNG vehicles.
Representatives from the 22 states met in Detroit in July, to push automakers to build more CNG vehicles on the promise that state governments would back the plans.
Meetings continued in August, with automaker representatives meeting in one of the states central to the plan--Oklahoma--to discuss the plan further. At the time, fourteen state governors signed a memorandum of understanding to support the manufacture of CNG vehicles.
The Detroit News reports that the coalition plans to buy between 5,000-10,000 vehicles per year, enough to help manufacturers reduce costs by building them on the assembly line--rather than expensively converting them afterwards.
The states' plans will increase the incentive for U.S. automakers to produce CNG vehicles, preferable to gasoline or diesel for their lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, only around 1,000 CNG filling stations are spread throughout the country, and only one carmaker--Honda--sells a natural gas car, the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas. Chrysler and GM both offer "bi-fuel" trucks that run on CNG or gasoline, while Ford sells CNG versions of its Transit Connect, E-Series, and F-Series Super Duty.
The lack of vehicles--and places to fuel them--has resulted in fairly low demand for the fuel, even though automakers and many states see it as an effective way of reducing pollution.
The fuel is increasingly popular elsewhere in the world, and CNG vehicle sales have topped over 10 million worldwide. The U.S. makes up only 200,000 of those sales, many of which are commercial vehicles such as vans and buses.
The CNG plans are led by Oklahoma and Colorado, but other natural gas-producing states are on board too, including Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Utah, Maine, New Mexico, West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, Mississippi and Louisiana.
There's no word as yet on which vehicles will be sold with CNG variants, but with the backing of several states, the agreement could be exactly what the market needs to boost the popularity of natural gas--and filling stations will surely follow.